UPDATE (October 13, 2022): The South Carolina Air National Guard’s 169th Fighter Wing will be extending their flight training operations at CAE for several weeks. Unanticipated conditions during the demolition of the existing runway at McEntire Joint National Guard Base created additional work which dictated more time required to finish the project.
“We appreciate the overwhelming support we have received from Columbia Metropolitan Airport as well as all our community partners. We are grateful for everyone’s patience and understanding as we strive to move our jets from CAE and back to McEntire as soon as it’s feasible.” -Col. Quaid Quadri, 169th Fighter Wing Commander
The South Carolina Air National Guard (SCANG) and Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE) have partnered for a temporary relocation operation of F-16s from McEntire Joint National Guard Base (McEntire) to CAE for six months, beginning April 2022 and concluding at the end of October 2022. This relocation operation – which will not impact daily commercial flights taking off and landing at CAE – is due to runway renovations and improvements at McEntire.
About the SCANG and McEntire
McEntire is a 2,400-acre base located in Eastover S.C., about 30 minutes from CAE. It consists of nearly 1,500 Airmen who work and drill at the base during the week and on regularly scheduled drill weekends. McEntire also hosts elements of the South Carolina Army National Guard including rotary wing and heavy vehicle maintenance.
The primary unit of the SCANG is the 169th Fighter Wing (169FW) – also known as the Swamp Foxes – which provides combatant commanders world-class combat capabilities. The mission of the 169FW is to maintain wartime readiness and the ability to mobilize and deploy expeditiously to carry out tactical air missions or combat support activities in the event of a war or military emergency. More specifically, the wing specializes in the Suppression and Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses. The SCANG operates as part of the Total Force of the U.S. military and is fully integrated with the active-duty Air Force to perform its military mission. The SCANG’s state mission is to respond to the call of the Governor of South Carolina in the event of natural disaster or domestic disturbance.
About the F-16 at CAE
The 169FW flies the F-16 Fighting Falcon, a single-seat, multi-purpose fighter jet with the ability to fly up to twice the speed of sound. It is capable of performing air-to-air and air-to-ground tactical missions. The 169FW currently flies the F-16C/Block 52, which is the newest and most advanced F-16 in the U.S. Air Force.
To learn more about the SCANG and the 169FW, visit their website here.
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Frequent Asked Questions
Click the + to drop down the answers to each question.
How long will the F-16s be at CAE?
The SCANG's F-16s were initially scheduled to be at CAE for approximately six months: arriving in late April 2022 and returning to McEntire JNGB at the end of October 2022 - but have extended their flight training operations at CAE for several more weeks, as of October 13, 2022.
Is there an observation area to watch the F-16s take off and land?
Yes. CAE's cell phone waiting lot will be the best place for viewing.
How many times a day will the F-16s fly?
While the 169th Fighter Wing is temporarily located at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport, they will be conducting their normal flight training operations just as if they were back at McEntire Joint National Guard Base.
What that means is that on most work days, as well as on their normal, one-weekend-a-month drill, they will be launching and recovering several training sorties most mornings and most afternoons. A number of factors will influence the exact timing and number including the training schedule, weather and so on.
For operational security reasons, the SCANG does not publish a releasable schedule of flights.
Will there be more noise in the area during the time the F-16s are stationed at CAE?
The SCANG performed a noise study and will be within the threshold of allowable operational noise levels while operating at CAE. That being said, the SCANG will do everything possible to minimize noise. In addition, night flying will be scaled back to the minimum while still meeting training requirements. Afterburner takeoffs will be reduced and kept to a minimum as well. Off-station training and patterns will be utilized elsewhere in order to minimize flying time over CAE airspace. The SCANG’s anticipated flight patterns taking off from and landing at CAE will be de-conflicted around other air traffic and flown over the least populated areas as possible.
The vast majority of their flying to and from CAE will be conducted during business hours and during daylight. During the summer, anticipate any night flying operations to start immediately after sunset and conclude approximately two hours later. During night flying weeks, the SCANG does not anticipate operating after midnight.
Why are the F-16s at CAE?
The Department of Defense is investing in the main runway at McEntire Joint National Guard Base. The 169th Fighter Wing will begin major runway renovations starting May 2022. This will cause McEntire Joint National Guard Base to temporarily close the main runway used by the 169th Fighter Wing. The total construction project costs will be approximately $20 million which also includes some other airfield improvements like aircraft arresting system upgrades. While the construction takes place at McEntire, the SCANG will performs its normal flight training operations at CAE.
How many military personnel will be working at CAE?
Approximately 200 SCANG personnel will be working at CAE at any one time during the week. On a drill training weekend, it will be closer to 300 people. The vast majority of SCANG personnel will remain and continue to work and drill at McEntire Joint National Guard Base.
Why was CAE chosen as the temporary location for the F-16s?
The short answer is moving to Columbia Metropolitan Airport is the most cost effective and best option available. Moving to CAE is the wisest and most responsible use of taxpayer funds because that option is the cheapest and best compared to the other options that were studied.
Will the F-16s impact everyday commercial flights at CAE?
No. This operation is not expected to impact any commercials flight to and from CAE and any point during its temporary stay.
What model of F-16 is at CAE?
The 169FW currently flies the F-16C/Block 52, which is the newest and most advanced F-16 in the U.S. Air Force inventory.
The 169thFW flew the F-16A from 1983-1994 and in 1994 transitioned to the F-16C/Block 52, the newest, most advanced F-16 in the Air Force. SCANG F-16s can perform multiple tactical missions including the Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) and Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses (DEAD) missions.
Comment or Concerns?
If you have additional questions about this partnership and operation, or would like to express any concerns, please reach out to Columbia Metropolitan Airport by email at email@example.com or to the South Carolina Air National Guard by email at 169.FW.Public.Affairs.firstname.lastname@example.org